Recently, I attended a breakfast meeting with a new client and two potential producers for that client’s upcoming project. As we were getting to know one another, one of the producers directed his attention to me and asked, “So who else are you working with? Who do you represent?” At that point, my new client gave a chuckle and said grinning, “Even I don’t know who else Wayne is working with right now, and that’s because who he spends time with besides me is not relevant to the working relationship that we share.” I beamed with pride because I knew that even though this was a new client there was an understanding about what I most often refer to as shiny objects. Shiny objects can include websites covered in selfies with celebrities or of office photos with gold and platinum recordings on the wall, or red carpet stories of who was great to work with or who was the very opposite and why. It’s not wrong for anyone to tout their professional successes, but I, like others, choose not to release my roster because of two reasons: first, some contracts include confidentiality agreements and second, the very sentiment my client demonstrated as being understood so well: the relationship is the foundation for career success, not the shiny objects.
“Anyone who describes themselves, even casually, as a songwriter would be best served to first check to ensure they actually write songs. The fastest way for an industry pro to determine if you are the songwriter you say you are is to simply ask you how many songs you’ve written. If you can’t answer by saying “oh, hundreds by now,” or “more than I would want to share but I’d be happy to share a selection of the best with you,” then chances are you’ve just tried to mislead someone who could help your career. Pro tip: Don’t mislead the professionals. Would you expect someone you met at a cocktail party to identify as a chef in conversation and then reveal that they had only cooked six meals? Or for a doctor to say that he’s already had all of three patients? More often than not, singers attach the word “songwriter” to their brand identity because they think it beefs up their brand (singer/songwriter), but if you don’t write every day or every week or if you don’t go through prolific creative cycles in which you exit with dozens of songs in hand, then you are not a songwriter (yet) and it is not your brand. Full stop. If your career is to be a singer/songwriter, then work both crafts equally and don’t front. Know thyself.”
"Artists are often asked to donate their time and talent for exposure rather than for pay. Most often, it's a something-for-nothing exchange and the musician is the one that comes out with nothing in the end. Musicians develop their craft, write their songs, rehearse and arrange and practice their stage work for the sole purpose of being paid. Exposure is not payment. Similarly, often times experienced managers are asked for counsel, advice and strategy without any kind of compensation. Would you ask your Uber driver to work for free? How about your doctor or any other professional? When a manager is generous enough to give you sage advice without any payment strings, be appreciative of the generosity; but also understand that managers work to earn a living, too, so free help might be temporary. Just because some of the best managers love their jobs doesn't mean any artist should assume that a manager will work for "the exposure."
“Musician’s often sincerely believe they just need one big break to make their career dreams come true. I could not disagree more. Nearly every day I speak with at least one artist who is convinced that it’s just one opening tour slot or one prime festival gig, one major music company meeting or one song placement in film or television, one celebrity fan to tweet about them or one feature article in a blog or magazine, and on and on. Those "one's" are upward spikes on a flat line, not careers, and while any of them may bring about remarkable and instant awareness, the spikes dissipate and lack the connection and consistency to create fans and predictable revenue. One big break may make one big hit, but it has never once in the history of this industry made a career. To these musicians who pine for the one big break I say: If you are diligent every day, you will naturally stop holding your breath looking for some imaginary finish line.”
"Ever wonder why a music manager may have one hugely successful and famous artist on his/her roster, and then a dozen more that no one has heard of? In this industry, you can do all of the right things at all of the right times and have a completely different outcome than a musician who is similar to you. It's guaranteed, actually. Superstardom is for the very few who in addition to doing all the right things at all the right times had the rare fortune of both magic and luck. If you truly can't make peace with the fact that the odds of superstardom are not in your favor, keep music as a hobby and resist the urge to engage business professionals who can never meet your expectations. If you can keep it real, embrace the simple fact that artistically evolving and sustainable careers can be wonderfully satisfying. But keep the dream alive. It's worth every minute."
"Most often, the very character trait that can help catapult a musician into a sustainable and successful career is the very characteristic that can also bring their livelihood to a screeching halt. Without citing specific examples, this concept has been proven within the scope of the global music market time and time again. My advice to every client is to remain aware of their own human condition (personality) as it pertains to their career and encourage all professional musicians to self-actualize as a measure to not only protect their careers from themselves, but to safeguard the careers of the support team they employ."
"Contrary to the opinions of many neophyte musicians, managers are not a "get rich quick" scheme. If you are approached by a manager, you have not hit the lottery. You have been noticed by someone who can help you navigate your career in an unusually challenging and fickle industry. You don't get rich without a tremendous amount of hard work, managed or otherwise."
"If you don't design your own artistic career plan, or if you fail to enlist someone reputable and experienced to co-create one with you, chances are you'll just arbitrarily fall inside the scope of some other musician's career plan, or maybe randomly leak inside the scope of some executive's plan; and guess what those people will have planned out just for you? Not much. If you solely rely on others to create your career, the likelihood of a win on your part is utterly nonexistent."
"In this current climate, all commercial musicians/recording artists are required to create their own careers from the ground up. Gone are the days where one waited to be discovered and groomed, then handed resources and opportunities just for being in the right place at the right time. Many musicians still wait for that magic romantic moment, and unfortunately, they will have dreams that never come true. The artists that work their music careers like a full-time job, the ones that push and sweat and sacrifice, those are the only ones that will have a real shot at that dream."
"Music publicist Howard Bloom once wrote: 'I used to tell my superstars that you don't just owe your audience your songs, you owe them your life. Why? Because others find themselves through you. Others make you an icon, a symbol that stands for something special, for some essential aspect of themselves.' For those that are fortunate enough to realize fame as part of their musical careers, truer words have never been spoken."
“When meeting an industry professional for the first time, often times a new artist will misstep by trying to describe their music rather than simply sharing a sonic sample. Industry professionals don’t need to hear how you believe your music sounds, at least not during an introductiory exchange. So, don’t try to explain where you fit in the musical landscape. Hand them a download card and always let the music do the talking.”
"For the artist who gets impatient with the pace of his/her career growth and wonders why it's not happening overnight, I say this: It takes six months to build a Rolls Royce, but it only takes twelve hours to build a Toyota."
"To the musician who feels entitled and distinctly above the long, hard process of developing a real career - the artist who will blame everyone else for their lack of success - I say this: No one cares about your excuses or pities your procrastination. No one will coddle you because you are lazy. It's your ass. You move it."
“Few musicians would ever admit that they are apathetic about their careers. They think they work too hard on the songs and recordings and performances to ever be accused of not caring about their work. But from a business perspective, any lack of engagement in promoting and marketing one’s own career is not only considered apathetic, it has been historically proven to be a debilitating factor for everyone else that is involved. Simply said, if artists don’t actively participate in their career development outside of writing, recording, and performing, then they (and those supporting them) are destined to fail.”
"Working relationships between all artists and their managers are as different as the parties that enter into them, so it would be quite impossible to create a universal list of what every manager’s specific duties are. However, I believe that there are eight fundamental roles every manager should be prepared to play on behalf of his or her artists - and they are (in no particular order): 1. a Career Advisor 2. an Unwavering Advocate 3. an Industry Mentor 4. an Effective Spokesperson 5. a Trusted Confidant 6. an Efficient Facilitator 7. a Chief Strategist, and 8. a Relationship Broker."
"The fear of achieving one's career aspirations can be as debilitating as the fear of never reaching them at all. Commonly, when an enviable yet unfamiliar opportunity presents itself, an emerging artist will be self-sabotaged by a paralyzing wave of anxiety. Artists that ultimately develop sustainable careers don't necessarily eliminate their fears - they simply learn how to push through them. Look at any chart-topping artist and you can safely assume that they became a successful working musician in part because they have already arrived on the other side of fear."
"The new music industry model requires professional musicians to be adept at fan engagement in order to succeed and sustain. But there is one undeniable rule to the process: Ongoing fan engagement must be every bit as genuine as the music that introduced that fan to the artist in the first place."
"Being very talented is not enough. It never has been. It never will be. The artist must also exhibit certain character traits (drive, determination, and bravery are a great place to start) if the ultimate goal is to make music his or her livelihood."
"Many times once an artist has a booking agent, a manager, or a record label in place, they believe that there is actually less work for them. That is never the case. The stakes are higher than ever before. Every artist must participate in their careers daily, regardless of how many people or business entities are actually assisting them."
“After crafting his design, an architect will employ and direct a team of experts - designers, contractors, laborers, and craftsmen - to help realize his vision and complete his project. Similarly, the successful artist manager must be the architect for his client's career, managing not only the artist’s day to day objectives, but also guiding the ongoing agendas of all professional entities involved to ensure cohesive and congruent focus until the desired results are achieved.”